The Emirates in 1976 – The trees in the desert
This article follows on from the previous article: The Emirates in 1976 – An evening at the Ministry of Information.
On the third day of our visit to The United Arab Emirates, I wanted to get something shot just to get us on the way. Fortunately, I had made an arrangement to meet Les Bailey from the English Nursery, Les’ company had been commissioned to plant thousands of trees into the desert. I was to go with him to one of his work locations in the desert.
By now, we were being driven in a Toyota Land Cruiser. This vehicle had a problem. I looked like a four wheel drive, but when a corner needed to be negotiated, it seemed that not all the wheels were operating. The outside wheels lost power.
We met up with Les and his assistant John a few miles east of the city, on the road to Al Ain. We parked our vehicle an transferred into one of two Land Rovers belonging to the Nurseries. From there, we struck off into the desert. We drove for several miles. Sometimes, there was sand tracks which were obviously well used by Bailey and company. However, there was plenty of sand dunes and, inevitably, we got stuck in sand and could no go on.
John, driving the first vehicle, stopped and came back to our vehicle. He was armed with a jack and a short plank. He placed the piece of plank parallel with the wheel, which was up to the axles in the sand, on the plank he placed the jack with which he engaged the centre stub axle of the wheel. As he jacked up the wheel, every few inches, he would impact the sand under the wheel with his fists. Eventually, the wheel was on top of the sand. We all got in and drove on. I asked Bailey if this happened often and he said “Several times a day”. That ‘s how John was so adroit at fixing the problem. However myself and the crew also learned how it was done.
After a thirty minute drive, we came on to a flat area in which there was a construction. It turned out to be the living quarters of the Nursery team. It was made entirely of packing cases, but it was a complete accommodation with kitchen, living room and bedrooms. John, who worked there from time to time was a big fellow. He was about five foot ten, but weight about sixteen stone. His colleague Norman, a permanent resident the site, was well over six feet in height and even heavier than John. They looked like a coupler of weightlifters.
They told us that they had about twenty Pakistani labourers working on the site and their encampment was about half a mile away. On several occasions, the two English heavies were called out to stop fights in the Pakistan encampment. It must have been lonely out there.
We were offered tea and a full breakfast, on a covered terrace, but we had already eaten, however, the tea was very welcome.
After tea, we drove off to a site where we could film.
It was possible to back a water tanker into the slipway from where water was pumped on board, this, initially, is how they provided water for the new plants. Later the trees would be watered through a perforated irrigation pipe which regularly fed the plants with water.
Behind the well, there was a huge sand dune which rose about 100 feet high. We all climbed to the top and then thought it might be fun to slide down on our bottoms. It was great fun and we all got sand in our boots.
We filmed the nearby plantation and then went back to the hotel for dinner.
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